Whine: There has to be a way to get through Target without Brother Bear alerting every pitying grandma and bewildered stockboy that I am violating his 8th Amendment rights. Because half-an-hour (ok, maybe it was an hour) in Target is the cruelest form of punishment.
Cheese: By the time he had hollered his way through the store with me carrying him and pushing the cart and spilling out my whole purse in the checkout line, one of the managers came over and said “Hon, you’re gonna need a carryout.” and called a handy little teenage boy over to shove all my groceries into the front seat of my car (although there was only frozen food this time, so I was left to weigh the pros and cons of eating the taquito still frozen.)
gra·tu·itous \grə-ˈtü-ə-təs, -ˈtyü-\
2 a : given unearned or without recompense b : not involving a return benefit, compensation, or consideration c : costing nothing : free
As far as baby gifts go (and I’ve gotten my fair share in the last five years), I’ve come to realize that nothing says “Welcome, Baby” quite like a cheese plate and a bottle of wine. A plate filled with hand-selected cheeses, just for me, I mean, Brother Bear. For a coupon clipper like me, a cheese plate feels sinfully extravagant. Each piece tastes a little bit like guilt as it smoothly melts into my mouth and I wash it down with a sparkling sheraz.
This last month has felt a little bit like a never-ending cheese plate. Wonderful. Decadent. Embarassing.
Every few days the doorbell would ring and someone would be standing there holding grilled chicken fajitas or sesame beef and broccoli or homemade mac and cheese still hot and bubbly from the oven. There would usually be a salad, with the tiny grape tomatoes sliced in half. Who has time to wash tiny tomatoes, let alone slice them in half?? And the brownies, we could talk all day about the brownies. And the cookies. And the pound cake.
As I would let each day’s fairy foodmother in to drop off her bounty, she would step over the wet towels in the entryway and the laundry baskets in the living room and would shove the open chip bags aside to find counterspace for the feast she had prepared for my family, I was struck with a sense of guilt. These people have lives. Kids, babies, full-time jobs, papers to grade and/or to write, much more urget things to do than make sure each and every enchilada has enough cheese (and yes, they sure did!). Yet here they are serving my family.
It’s hard to accept help. To know that if it weren’t for some blessed woman making chicken parmesan amidst ankle-biters tearing apart her living room, my family would be eating a frozen pizza, again. Heated up if I was feeling generous. It’s hard because when I let someone help me, I feel like maybe if I had it all together I wouldn’t need to inconvenience them with my ravenous appetite.
So mixed in with the immense gratitude and the deliciously full belly and the relief that tonight’s dinner does NOT involve pepperoni, there’s a dollop of guilt, with just a pinch of shame. I shouldn’t need their help. I should be able to do this alone. But the truth is, I do need help and I can’t do it alone.
Presents keep showing up at my house, too. Books and magazines to read while I nurse the baby. Tiny little shoe-socks. Diapers galore. And money, too, because apparently people who have had babies realize these things ain’t cheap and feel sorry for me. The tooth fairy even stopped by one day with this, which is not baby related but very useful:
This is my third baby. I don’t expect anyone else to be as excited as I am. I don’t expect anyone to help me. I don’t expect presents, although I do really like them. So all this hoop-lah has been fantastic and refreshing and appreciated, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it because I didn’t earn it. I get the uneasy feeling that I don’t deserve any of this.
And I don’t. Not because I’m a bad person and I’m unworthy (although I’ve got record high score at “I’m not worthy” the arcade game), but because true love and compassion and friendship don’t come because I deserve it. That would put me in the driver’s seat, always trying to earn more, always looking for my next handout of kindness. And deserving everything I get would rob me of this small little feeling that bubbles up from inside every now and again, this little tiny part of me that feels thankful instead of embarrassed or indebted.
After blessing upon blessing, help and handouts and electric toothbrushes, I’ve found myself heading to a new place. A place of gratitude. I’m pretty sure the friend who brought the king ranch chicken would rather me serve it with a pinch of gratefulness than a side of self-loathing.
So since this is my blog and I haven’t quite managed to write a single thank-you note yet, I want to say a very big THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR EVERYTHING. And not just for the dinners and presents. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog or for calling me repeatedly until I answer or forcing me to go to the park and even just reading this blog, because getting one more reader might be the most productive thing I do in a day. Thank you for being excited about Brother Bear, and fighting over who gets to hold him (even if you do live a thousand miles away) although he mostly just sleeps and eats and hollers in public. I can say this honestly, the last five weeks have been better because of you.